March 11, 2010
Review by Kathleen
It seems the show is already available to hear and form your own opinion, but I will give
some of my quick thoughts on the musical part of show. Part II is what my experience
of the show was like so you can skip that if all you care about is Bob.
Usually I am one to grump about the boring setlist or my seat, but I decided I had to turn
over a new leaf for Japan or I would be really unhappy. So I did. It was a well-played
(a few little blips), lots of focus, solid show. I have no complaints about the music or
performance--the people who are snarky about the setlist just weren't there is all I have
My comments on select songs:
North Country was interesting with Bob on guitar.
Things Have Changed was great and had nice interplay between Charlie and Bob.
To Ramona was a strange arrangement and that is why I think the live setlist texter had
trouble identifying it. I did too, for a second. Also, from where I was for this song, the
vocals were muddy and incomprehensible.
High Water sounded really good-Bob is continuing with an arrangement with barely anyone
playing anything during the banjo break, so it's nice to hear the banjo loud and clear. In
general, Donnie's mandolin and banjo, and to some extent the steels, were turned up
higher in the mix so you could hear them, which is an improvement over most of last year.
Also the trumpet was brought out, but taken away at the encore and not used. So there
is hope for some of the new songs being played on this tour, it seems.
Spirit on the Water was very good in the way it's very good with Charlie, not in the Denny
Levee seemed like a typical arrangement but everyone loved it. It had the crowd bopping.
Hard Rain-Bob was really getting into this, going up and down the scale with pretty much
the entire band in a riff he seemed delighted about, and doing his "kindergarten Bob" nah nah
singing. After that Bob came over to the edge of the stage near the keyboard (that is the
side I was on) and did a little funny curtsy-like thing with his hands spread wide (a bow maybe)
and had an impish big grin which thrilled the crowd. That's when he started getting more into
the show and crowd.
Highway 61-Bob had a terrific time with this one. The crowd loved it. Charlie was on one of his
fantastic dirty guitar blues rolls on this song, but somehow got off on a jazzier thing that didn't
work (I blame Bob), but still the song was pretty high energy and exciting.
Can't Wait to me was a different arrangement, very very lowdown which progressed to a kind
of a funk groove. At the end, Bob scooted over to the keyboard for the last couple bars (he
had been center stage) and they went right into Thunder on the Mountain a la the Dead, it
was so cool. I couldn't really believe it was happening. Charlie rip roared on the solos and he,
Bob, and Donnie were all together riffing and smiling. Really fun and very rock n roll.
Jolene was cheery. It works fine to me where it is in the setlist, and it's a rollicking dance song.
The crowd liked it.
Watchtower-Believe it or not, I think the crowd liked this song the best and went the wildest
One more note on the music, I could not see Stu, but the songs Stu played electric guitar on
(sorry, I couldn't write them down as my arms were pinned for most of the concert) sounded
really good. And, of course, he was solid on acoustic. Yes, George and Tony were perfect.
To fill in a few more blanks: Bob was wearing a lavender scarf with a suit with purple stripes on
the pants. The guys had on the grey suits. Everyone had their beginning of tour short(er)
haircuts. They were standing in the exact same places where we left them in NYC. The band
looked a bit jet-lagged. But they sounded terrific. Bob had some smiles for the band--I'd call it
a medium interaction night for him with them.
Bob had a medium to low interaction night with the audience the first half of the show, and
medium high starting with Highway 61. He seemed happy enough and smiled at the crowd a
little, and gestured toward various parts of the crowd a few times. It looked like he has a
couple of new dance steps. Also Bob was pretty direct in all his movements; he wasn't
constantly picking up the harp, for instance, and then not playing it or putting it down. And
he wasn't shuffling around the stage as much as he did last tour back and forth and around.
He knew where he was going for each song.
Here is what my concert going experience was like:
I got to the venue around 4:30 p.m. to try to see how things worked. It was very organized,
with a guy with a megaphone stating directions every 15 minutes or so. There was a line, even
though there didn't need to be a line. At 5 p.m. we were allowed to go down the steps to
vending which was right outside of the door to go in. We could buy things, and then we had
to go back up the stairs. The concert poster is the same as it was last tour. It looks like the
one on this website. There are a few new items, like photos of Bob for sale (maybe just for
Japan-most of them look like his eye make-up phase.)
It was bone-chilling cold in a way that can only happen when you are on a bay with a stiff north
wind. Layers didn't help. Anyway, at some point we were divided up into groups of about
three hundred as per our GA ticket number (the seating in the balcony is tiny, barely any seats
are there), then further divided into groups of 100. As you can imagine, this is incredibly
organized compared to a GA concert anywhere else on the planet. At exactly 6 p.m. (everything
happens exactly on time here-the bullet trains' average delay last year was six seconds), the first
20 people were each called by number and went in in numerical order.
After that we went in in groups of about 10, they called by number. It sounded like an auction in
the U.S., the person at the front called the number and he had a relay person midway through
the crowd to megaphone singsong the number again. (For some reason, Japanese megaphones
are effective, yet not loud and obnoxious like everywhere else.) The staff was helpful in letting
me know when my number was called. This was my best number of the tour, 195, and that put
me third row about even with Bob's keyboard. Despite what everyone says, not all Japanese
people are short, and I am very short. So I had to jockey a bit for a view, but at least I had a
window to see Bob. Initially.
By some miracle that could probably only happen in Japan, the venue was filled in a very orderly
manner, probably by about 6:40 p.m. For that first half hour, you could hear a pin drop, no one
spoke. Then when the people got in the seats in the balcony, there was a murmur, but not much
of one. The background music was some type of U.S. '50s music; sorry I can't remember it exactly
due to later stress, but think, "Blueberry Hill." At 7 p.m. exactly, one of the songs ended so the
crowd assumed the show would start and started politely clapping. But then another song started.
And ended. More polite clapping and a few hoots and hollers. This went on for like six songs. I
think the crowd was a bit perplexed/stressed/worried about why the show was not starting.
Anyway, at 7:17 p.m. the show started. (It ended at about 9:10 p.m.) After what had been a
peaceful and happy wait, it went downhill very quickly once the lights went down. The crowd
surged, or shall I say, catapulted forward (at least in my area). I was pinned, and I mean crushed,
for the rest of the concert with tall Japanese people all around me, but luckily not right in front of
me. I could not move my arms or head backward (people were over me) most of the night and
had to alternate leaning backwards as hard as I could so I could have enough room to expand my
ribcage to breathe, with relaxing and letting the weight of my body be held up by the crowd. It
kinda reminded me of a time in Italy where my feet did not touch the ground for 45 minutes and
I had to do yogic breathing to be able to survive. No way out.
I was surprised at how it went and how crazed the people around me were, trying to get closer
to the stage, ostensibly by climbing over my head. It's not what I expected in Japan and my
struggling seemed to improve the peoples' resolve to pretend I wasn't there. (No security in
sight, but also no cameras…people were very mindful of the rules-just not other people.)
The only reason I stayed was because it was my only number that will put me anywhere near the
stage this tour, and also because I felt some responsibility to the community back home to make
sure someone could report on the first concert of the tour. I am not sure I could have left if I
tried, though. I was absolutely pinned from above and below.
There were a lot more drunk people than I saw people drinking. And even though I didn't see
any cigarettes, I was saturated with smoke by the end of the concert.
All in all, this was physically my most miserable Bob concert (and I've had some 112 degree
concerts, rainy ones, no bathroom breaks for 12 hours, and pushy people in my day.) Maybe
even my most miserable anyone concert. Good thing I'm experienced at this stuff, work out
and do yoga is what I kept thinking or I might have become a statistic and all my mother's fears
would have been realized.
The silver lining was seeing Bob and the boys, of course. And as luck had it, once I was in the big
squeeze of the toothpaste tube, feet barely on the ground, I was sort of floated sideways and
ended up near some shorter people, so I could still mostly see. I am not sure if it is because I was
even with Bob's keyboard or if the first few rows were the same the entire way down the rail.
Bob's Japanese fans definitely wanted to be close to him. (95% guys on the rail, BTW, my guess
is because they could afford to buy the tickets from the scalpers to get the good numbers. Many
more guys than girls overall at the concert, also.) It seemed less squishy in the back when I left
after the encore, so maybe it wasn't that way all the way around.
So there it is, my first Japanese concert.
And since this is likely my swansong tour and review, I'd like to thank Bill for the pep talk, Andrew
for the flashlight, and Yoki (sp?) for the translation help in lining up. Thanks to Bob for taking me
places I never dreamt I would go, for making my vacations full of music, and for picking such
fantastic, often Texan, band members!
Review by Hiroshi Yoshizawa & Paul Swanson
Bob Dylan has come to Japan after a hiatus of 9 years.
This is Bob's 14th tour of Japan, and is unique in that all the concerts are at the same small venue (Zepp),
rather than at a large concert hall or arena. It has been two years since I last saw Dylan live in the USA.
I've seen him at some small venues in the US (Birmingham, Santa Cruz) and London, but was surprised
that the venue here was even smaller.
I'm not going to write a regular review here. The set list is available on the net, so I won't emphasize
that. I want to write my impressions as a besotted fan. If you don't like the ravings of a fan, don't read
March 11 (Thursday), Osaka
Yesterday when I glanced at Twitter, a fan had written that Bob had just arrived at Kansai
The venue for tonight's concert is in a remote place. There I met an Italian woman who has been
following Dylan for years. Every time I go to a Dylan concert, there she is, carrying a sign asking for any
remaining tickets. I saw her in the US, and also in Europe. And here she was in Japan. She's been
doing this for 12 years.
But what about the concert?
The audience was very young. Usually the audience members are about my age, but this time there
were a lot of young people. I've never seen this in the USA.
The first song was "Watching the River Flow". I could tell at a glance that Dylan was in a good mood.
He was wearing a black suit-pants and jacket-and an orange scarf. There was also an orange line down
the side of his pants. When the song ended he gestured to the audience as if to say, "how was that?"
I thought, today is the first of fourteen Dylan performances, and he seemed to be aware of that.
The third song was "Things Have Changed," the first live performance of this song in Japan. The
tempo was good.
The fourth song was "To Ramona", a famous song, with a heartrending performance. He's showing us
many sides of himself, I thought.
This I know: Every year, Dylan's performance is different. At first I thought that maybe he was just
"winging it" all the time, but now I don't think so.
Dylan is dancing. His dance is like a bottomless swamp. Bottomless. The surface is like a mirror ball.
The mirror reflects and sends forth countless aspects. These are put together into constantly new
performances. Therefore, every time his performance is different.
I've seen Paul McCartney perform. It was a lot of fun, but Paul is not like Dylan. Bob Dylan performs
like this: today I'm going to send out this and that aspect of the mirror. Maybe a better metaphor is
the way Chinese medicine and Indian curry are produced, by mixing various elements and always
coming up with a new flavor.
"The Levee's Gonna Break" was a great performance! He stuck out his tongue!
I have to say a few words about the band. There have been times when I felt that the band was
afraid of Dylan. Well, of course they are afraid! It seemed to me that they were playing while gauging
Dylan's face and his reaction. But today, the band was enjoying itself.
"I Don't Believe You" was sung almost as if they were enjoying Karaoke, but it sure was cool.
I really enjoyed "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." It was sung with a distinctive blue's style, making the song
almost unrecognizable. Those of you in-the-know will understand; it was done in the "tumbling-man"
style that Dylan used in 2002.
"Can't Wait" included full stops in the middle of the song, like in Yamaguchi Momoe's song "Playback #1."
What can I say; it was great.
"Ballad of a Thin Man" was also in "Karaoke" style. Outstanding. I remember when Dylan performed this
is in 1978, he didn't hold a guitar but sang it with his hands free. Some people said, "Bob Dylan singing
without a musical instrument shouldn't be allowed." But he sang like this in 1966, 1976, 1978, and 1979.
It's a completely different way for him to perform, and I was mesmerized.
The last song was "All Along the Watchtower." When it was finished he made a pose as if challenging
the audience, "How was that? Did you enjoy it?" I've never seen him make such a pose before. But he
was having fun; he laughed a lot.
Such was the closing curtain on Bob Dylan's performance.
Report by Yoshizawa Hiroshi, translated by Paul Swanson
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